Daily Archives: September 18, 2015

my dog is not bipolar

“Tell me more about your dog being your lifeline,” said Shrink Two, with an amused look and I can’t remember what I replied. “What gets you up in the morning?” she enquired and looked even more amused when I said, “my dog”. So I explained that my dog wakes me early and also won’t let…

Black Dot Campaign – Domestic Violence

Domestic violence victims are being encouraged to draw a simple black dot on the palm of their hands to alert others to their situation.

Source: Helping Domestic Violence Victims One Dot At A Time

I’m sharing this as a domestic abuse survivor in the hopes that someone who really needs it might see this and find the opportunity for help. I’ve been free of abuse for 10 years but I remember it a whole lot better than I wish I did. I also wish someone had told me that love shouldn’t hurt, because it took me so many years to realize that what I was going through was not normal and that it was wrong. Maybe you don’t completely understand what’s happening to you or your family, like I didn’t, but if you have to ask, “Am I being abused?” don’t just ask yourself that question. Ask someone who can help you answer it. <3

-LB

Tagged: Black Dot, child abuse, domestic abuse, mental health, support

Black Dot Campaign – Domestic Violence

Domestic violence victims are being encouraged to draw a simple black dot on the palm of their hands to alert others to their situation.

Source: Helping Domestic Violence Victims One Dot At A Time

I’m sharing this as a domestic abuse survivor in the hopes that someone who really needs it might see this and find the opportunity for help. I’ve been free of abuse for 10 years but I remember it a whole lot better than I wish I did. I also wish someone had told me that love shouldn’t hurt, because it took me so many years to realize that what I was going through was not normal and that it was wrong. Maybe you don’t completely understand what’s happening to you or your family, like I didn’t, but if you have to ask, “Am I being abused?” don’t just ask yourself that question. Ask someone who can help you answer it.

-LB

Tagged: Black Dot, child abuse, domestic abuse, mental health, support

Stigma in the mental health industry

suspiciousAs I mentioned in my previous post, my DBT class was not handled well. The more I thought about the money I wasted, the more determined I became to do something about the situation (various readers suggested I request a refund, which I was considering). The billing department informed me that they didn’t have the authority to give refunds or credits, and transferred me to the director of the facility. The director of the facility was a condescending pompous ass. He spoke to me like the mentally ill person he assumed I was, and his answer was “You attended the sessions, therefore you have to pay for them.” My attempts at explaining that had I been forewarned that I would not be learning anything I would not have attended, were then met with an ever-increasing slowed speech (as if I couldn’t understand) with an explanation of what was supposed to take place during the first two classes. “Yes,” I replied. “That is exactly what I expected, but not what I received. I did not sign up for this class to pay for other people’s therapy sessions.” After going around and around with both of us repeating the same thing, he finally said “I have no authority over Billing.” “Gee, that’s odd, Billing is the department that sent me to you.” There was more of his calm-down-crazy-lady bullshit, when I finally said “This is unacceptable, I’ll file a Client’s Rights Grievance,” and hung up on him. I was not in need of calming down, I was speaking in a coherent, intelligent, and calm manner.

I have encountered this type of treatment before from both mental and physical health professionals. Because I receive treatment for a mental illness, it is assumed that I am either unintelligent, unreasonable, or a drug addict. Years ago, when I first started having problems with my back, I had to go to the emergency room three days in a row before I finally received the care I needed from a competent and compassionate physician. Since a ruptured disc (which is what I finally discovered I had) does not show up on an x-ray, I was told to go home that they weren’t going to simply prescribe pain medication to every person who claimed they were in pain. Unfortunately, when I was filling out the initial forms, I was honest about my hospitalizations. Thus revealing that I had been in-patient in a psychiatric hospital. It was therefore assumed that I was a drug addict, and not really in pain. I was dragging my leg, crying from pain, and not wanting pills only wanting answers. The third doctor ended up ordering an immediate MRI, which then resulted in emergency surgery the following day. At that time I was still too cowed by physicians to file a complaint.

During one in-patient stay, I was overhead to say “I’m afraid to go home tomorrow.” Taken out of context, it was assumed that I was a danger to myself and there appeared before me two large orderlies demanding my shoelaces and wanting to escort me to a 72-hour hold. Fortunately, I was able to get hold of my psychiatrist who set them straight. The discussion was originally about the fact that my husband had become even more abusive than he had been in the past. If someone would have taken the time to ask why I was afraid, that unpleasant situation could have been avoided.

Sadly, this type of treatment is not unusual. We that fight against stigma need to address it in both the lay community as well as the health community. Do the universities need to offer classes in compassion, or avoiding stereotyping patients? Or does this already exist and it does no good? I don’t have answers, but I do know something must be done.

Tagged: healthcare, mental illness, stigma

To Escape My Own Mind

I am up and pretending to function, doing the bare minimum with the false smile the world demands yet I know it’s false and it’s disturbing. I want to escape my own mind because face it, that is the problem. The professionals can spew all they want about personality disorders and negative attitudes and holding onto the past…None of it is relevant unless your mind is perceiving it correctly and the chemicals responding correctly. For whatever reasons,in spite of the punch bowl full of meds, my mind keeps telling me life is pointless, a ball and chain I have to drag around at all times, is it any wonder I am exhausted by the smallest things. Just taking my kid to school, surviving the parking lot they call a drive thru at McDonald’s for a sweet tea, hitting two yard sales and a stop at the smoke shop…And I am ready to collapse. The heat doesn’t help but it’s this oppressive darkness in my mind that’s the real culprit.

I didn’t even want to go to yard sales. Not like I have more than a wallet full of coins, anyway. But I am forcing myself to do the things I used to enjoy, because the professionals say it’s healthy. But it was less enjoyment and more chore. When the things you once relished become the same as doing dishes or scooping a cat box- one more chore to get through…You gotta wonder if there’s any end to it.

That shrink told me four months ago I’d be up and happy again and it has yet to happen. I’ve been in this darkness for almost 11 months now. Most people would have cracked.

I think this is a big misconception about bipolar. People perceive it all as extremes and yet a lot of time I hover and go up then down and all around. Only the winter depressions usually last a long time. It’s not like I don’t have a decent or at least not awful day here and there. It’s just the overall length of this current mind set that has me beating my head against the wall.

I WANT OUT!!

Of this mind space, of my own mind.

In all fairness, though, I’ve been dealt some blows lately that would bring anyone down a notch or two. A manic depressive, the fall is a hundred notches.

Orchid (can’t believe they had a cat five months and didn’t even give it a name) is adapting well to our home and other cats. He’s very loving. Except for last night when he met the smotherer named Spook and hid under the bed so she’d leave him be. It’s unfathomable to me that no one in that whole clan wanted this cat and said to dump him. Nine cats die and you’re tossing this one aside why…He’s fine personality wise. I don’t get that faction of my family. Hell, I don’t get any faction of my family.

Frankly, I don’t get people at all, period. The counselors have always said this is because I operate on a different wavelength than most. I feel things more deeply because I am more self aware. Whereas most just coast through life with this Teflon coating so nothing quite sticks. I have no Teflon so everything sticks to me. Well, except for joy, that doesn’t stick at all and I am really sick to death of it being turned into some “you don’t want to be happy” thing. I don’t want to be depressed, either. Is wanting a happy medium so unreasonable?

I think I am just people’d the fuck out. Least as far as family and this town go. I enjoy interacting on line with the mental health bloggers cos you guys get it and even if you don’t, you respect that it’s real for me and I appreciate that. Daily invalidation, though, takes a toll.I need to drop out for awhile but with my kid’s school routine and her not being eligible for the bus, I am thrust into the petri dish five days a week and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Once, I found it healthy to get out daily. Now that the daily pick ups are so torturous…I don’t think it’s healthy at all. It’s stressful. I can’t breathe until weekends.

I still fail to see the therapeutic point in doing shit that stresses you out and throws everything off kilter even more. Especially for a rebellious person like me who prefers to do things in her own time. Exposing me to the things that make me panic (as they did in therapy once) simply set me back ten steps. State of mind is important in developing coping skills. If I am depressed, panicking, and not thinking clearly…It’s counterproductive. If you don’t “force” yourself to face the triggers even when you’re out of sorts, then you’re somehow a malingerer who doesn’t want to get well.

Oddly, if you had a broken leg and were supposed to run a marathon, not a soul would have a problem with you waiting til your leg healed before doing it.

The vast differences in the way mental versus physical illness are treated infuriates me. But then I better stop being infuriated because feelings are bad. Feeling anything negative is wrong.

The ludicrousness of living in a society where denial is actually promoted…

Okay. Think I will stare off into space until I’m hit with the urge to do something. Once I fetch her from school and know I have two days without that nightmare…I think I will calm down and maybe be productive in some fashion. Until then…I feel like I am in this invisible bondage and my churning pretzel gut proves, it’s not some affectation. This is a big issue for me.

And it’s kicking my ass.

 


Days like these: When beige turns to blue

Forgive me, I was supposed to write this post on Monday, but I’ve been so down and preoccupied with being down that I simply couldn’t. I have a big black notebook that I write my ideas in – but sometimes it takes a while for me to get them typed up. But here it goes. There […]

Quote me

And just like that, spring has sprung upon us.

Welcome Jocelyn Fryer from the blog, My Humble Pie (SA)

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Jocelyn Fryer Blog: My Humble Pie

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I spotted Jocelyn’s writing on Health-e.org.za and tried to track her down. Her story reminded me of so many stories I’ve read online. But it was different in many ways too. I could hear her writer’s voice.

She was local. She was South African.

I immediately made contact and urged her to share her favourite posts with us. The below post was one of the most popular posts, but she’s written others that you may enjoy too. She’s from Port Elizabeth (shout out to Eastern Cape) and had this to say about her writing:

“I don’t only blog about my bipolar but about forging a path back to happiness in general with the things I love the most and lost for a while in my life

Welcome Jocelyn.

LEARNING TO LOVE LIFE WITH BIPOLAR

*First published on thesewalkingblues.com, http://www.health-e.org.za & http://www.health24.com

My confession is this: I have bipolar. Two and a half years ago, at the age of 29, I was hospitalised while in the throes of what is known as a manic episode. It was my first, and will hopefully be my last. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, it is when someone suffering with bipolar disorder experiences a manic ‘high’, so to speak. I was never one of those teenagers who experimented with mind-altering substances, so I can make no comparison, but it is essentially a malfunctioning of the human mind.

Make no mistake, you are often unlikely to succeed in convincing someone who is behaving manically that they require medical attention. How can something that feels so incredible be bad for you? The sense of optimism and euphoria is overwhelming. The world suddenly reveals itself as a magnificent, kaleidoscopic tapestry, each thread undeniably connected to every other. Patterns and significances begin to emerge in places where before there was no meaning. If you were not deeply spiritual before, the universe now feels as if it is speaking to you directly. In fact, it is not uncommon for those experiencing a manic episode to show symptoms of a messianic complex. I myself began to believe that, on some level, I had mystical powers, that I was untouchable. I would happily wander the streets at night, invite strangers into my home, feeling no threat to my person. During this process, your creative mind is unleashed. You feel plugged in. There is that same sense of abandon that one had as a child and has missed ever since. It is liberating to say the least. But ultimately, you are like Icarus flying towards the sun on precarious wings of wax and feathers. It cannot last forever.

Your body has been surviving too long on little sustenance and a few hours of sleep a night. You are simply too human. Eventually you come tumbling down to earth and hit solid ground. It takes you back to its bosom and you enter the darker phase of your depression. Here you lie, and listen to the sounds of others outside living their lives, and you weep. And you weep. And then you weep some more. You long for your euphoria. You long to feel connected to your fellow human. You long to feel connected to a higher power. But there is only a void. Friends and family may try to enter the void, to pull you out of your despair, but it is a fleeting comfort. You take your medication daily because the good doctor tells you it will help. You wonder why it does not feel like it is helping. After time, you emerge.

This is the stage where you begin again. You try to converse with others. You try to feed yourself, to brush your teeth, to clean your hair. Now and again, you attempt social gatherings, still feeling unsettled, uncertain, insecure. Some days, you manage. Some days, you excuse yourself and return to your solitude. You are haunted by what others may think of you, if they know about your diagnosis, if they will treat you differently now that you have been labelled. But little by little you manage, and it gets easier, gradually but easier nonetheless. The next challenge you face is that you seldom feel alive. You are talking to someone, but you do not feel engaged. You are saddened by the death of a character in a novel you are reading and yet you have no tears. You cannot remember the last time you laughed spontaneously. You are surviving, but are you living? You cannot say for certain. Will it always be this way?

I would like to say that it will not always be this way. Of course, the mood stabiliser that I take every morning and every evening ensures that I do not experience extreme highs or lows. Over time, however, I am catching myself crying in a movie or laughing out loud at a YouTube video. I am no longer self-conscious when I talk to others. Instead, I feel deeply interested in what they have to say. I find myself enjoying music more. I have discovered love again. I may not be the person I used to be, but the person I am is no longer unrecognisable.

Now I admit there can be no singular approach to navigating this tricky terrain. We are each of us so unique that there can be no uniform prescription on how to live your life. But on the subject of living with bipolar, here are simply a few things that have helped me along the way:

  1. Allow for Time

While I was suffering with severe depression for six months, I read an old book by Thomas Moore called Care of the Soul. Some people visit churches and pray in their hours of need; my temple was my city’s main library. There I would sit for hours with something I had found on a shelf and this was one such gem. Through it I learnt not to be ashamed of depression, not to feel weak or lacking. Rather, I came to accept my depression as part of a natural process of self-discovery. It would take its course, and when the time came, I would be ready to start my life afresh.

  1. Appreciate Your Loved Ones and Don’t Fret the Rest

It is never easy to experience a psychotic episode. One of the first things you will learn is to distinguish between those who will be your loyal companions forever and those who will not. There are two reasons why I think you may lose many people in your life if this happens. One, we are not comfortable as a society dealing with that which is not considered the ‘norm’. While so many people today take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety tablets, we are not open about mental illness. We do not celebrate those who struggle with mental illness and live with it daily as we do those who beat cancer. So, simply put, former friends may be overwhelmed by your condition. Secondly, a manic episode alters your behaviour and your moods. Even if people have known you for years, what they think they know of you is suddenly challenged and they do not know how to separate the person from the mental illness. Nonetheless, if you are as lucky as I was, you will have a handful of people who visit you in hospital, who never lose sight of who you are. Cling to them, and forgive the rest for their shortcomings.

  1. Take Comfort in Routine

When I was at my most depressed, the things that I had once taken for granted suddenly became insurmountable tasks. The simple act of preparing a meal, or making my bed seemed all too much for me. Today, I take great pride in the fact that I am able to wake up every morning, feed my cats, make my bed, have a cup of coffee and get my day started. While mundane chores of daily living may seem tedious at times, take delight in the fact that you are fit and able. These small tasks may not seem like much but they help to add stability to our lives. So take an evening yoga class and try not to miss it. Rise early so you can walk the dog. It is by performing these little, seemingly insignificant tasks that I have found the confidence to tackle larger projects in life.

  1. Maintain a Healthy Body

When I had my manic episode, I was working late most evenings, relying on energy drinks and junk food during the day to sustain me. I had also allowed for an undue amount of stress and anxiety in my life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle now is not something I do because it seems like a good idea. It is an imperative if I do not wish to be hospitalised again. This means that I drink in moderation, and when I do drink it is the occasional glass of light wine or a light beer (making sure that it is alcohol light and not simply low in calories). Except for the odd cheat or indulgence, I steer clear of unhealthy take-outs. I also watch my caffeine intake daily, allowing myself two cups of coffee in the morning while drinking black rooibos the rest of the day. Finally, of perhaps the greatest importance, is that I ensure I get eight hours of sleep a night. A lack of sleep is not only one of the symptoms of a manic episode but can also play a role in the onset of one.

  1. Be Accepting of Yourself

It is inevitable that a psychotic break will change you. I used to be the kind of person who was extremely vocal. I had opinions on everything and I wasn’t afraid to share them. As I began to branch out after my depression, I was still rather withdrawn and shied away from entering any heated debates (which was very uncharacteristic of who I used to be). At first, I worried that people might find me boring, that I no longer had anything to contribute to a roomful of people, that I had lost my spark. Over time, my confidence has come back. I now say something if I feel the need to contribute. But I am also quite content to sit back and let others take the helm. Some family members have lamented this, remarking that I am not myself anymore. That is true. I am different now. And that’s okay. Along the way, I have also gained a sense of peace in the world that I did not have before. Whatever shape it takes, accept your growth. Accept who you have become. To my mind, there is no greater happiness than this.

Other posts you may find interesting:

http://www.myhumblepie.co.za/life-in-full-colour/

http://www.myhumblepie.co.za/there-is-magic-in-the-contours-of-your-body/

http://www.myhumblepie.co.za/finding-my-voice-again/

-OLE Team


A “Who” of My Favourite Things

Gerald C Dalek and me reading the first issue of the "Doncopolitan"

Gerald C Dalek and me reading the first issue of the “Doncopolitan”

Not all the best things in life are free. Even love comes at a cost: not necessarily financial. As for the next best thing, here in the UK at least, you need a license.

Yep, it’s that time of year: time to dust down your sonic screwdrivers, break out your long, multi-colour scarves, and clear your Saturday evenings for the next three months. The Good Doctor, in his current incarnation of Peter Capaldi, is back on the box in less than 48 hours.

In honour of this momentous occasion in the North household, here’s a list of some of my favourite things, not always in order:

  1. The Beloved. Who’s not a thing, and gets as grumpy as the 12th Doctor if I publish his photo on this blog.
  2. Doctor Who (1)
  3. Writing: I’m seldom happier than when I’m writing, and it’s going well.
  4. Reading: Just finished a Ruth Rendell short story collection, “Blood Lines”. Currently reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, “Walking Home” by Simon Armitage, and “Stories from the World of Tomorrow”, an anthology of sci fi short stories.
  5. Libraries: Love ’em! I’ll be at my local tomorrow morning, for writers’ group.
Newton, as if imagined by Blake: British Library, 2014

Newton, as if imagined by Blake: British Library, 2014

6. My friends: Other than the Beloved, they are closer, and often dearer, than …
7. My family: great when growing up, now mostly dead, scattered, and/or not communicating much. Having said that …
8. Our “sons”, and our “daughter”: Several people who spent a lot of time at our house as young adults (20s – 30s).
9. Photography: my good photos are few and far between, and mostly down to luck. This is because for the most part, I don’t know what I’m doing. Not entirely convinced I’d enjoy it more if I did know what I was doing
10. Curry, garlic mushrooms, and eating out: Why is all the best food usually stinky?

Tea and cake at Floristry by Lord Hurst: another of my favourite things

Tea and cake at Floristry by Lord Hurst: another of my favourite things

11. Sweet stuff: Prior to being put on medication, I could eat it with no ill effect on my weight. *Sigh*
12. Cats: including whole kittens, not just their whiskers.

Caught in the act: Sept 2015

Caught in the act: Sept 2015

13. Pet rodents: I still miss my Arthur C Rat, but Charles De Rat is very much part of my life. Yes, this causes conflict with 12. above. Also in conflict with 12. is …
14. Birds: Feeding them, watching them, photographing them. It’s relaxing.
15. Art: Mum & Dad did a great job of making me think that visiting to museums and other places filled with art is a good, good thing. Marrying a man who also likes museums simply reinforced this.

Statue of Pan: Chatsworth gardens, Sept 2015

Statue of Pan: Chatsworth gardens, Sept 2015

16. Nature: I need to spend more time around trees. Also, the sea.
17. Music: I have fairly eclectic tastes. Which some would argue means I have no taste.
18. Tea: Mom had this weird idea that kids shouldn’t do a lot of things before they were 13, including drink caffeine. This may be why cola and I have a largely “meh” relationship, whilst the smell off coffee put me off as a child.

But tea, glorious tea! Yes, in the North it generally means the evening meal, but in this instance I mean the glorious hot caffeinated beverage that is made of leaves, and has kept me warm, and awake, since I got hooked on it around 20 years ago.

Speaking of which, fancy a cuppa? I know I do.

Teapot selfie, Beverley: Sept 2015

Teapot selfie, Beverley: Sept 2015

(1) This shocked you, I’m sure.

 

 

A “Who” of My Favourite Things

Gerald C Dalek and me reading the first issue of the "Doncopolitan"

Gerald C Dalek and me reading the first issue of the “Doncopolitan”

Not all the best things in life are free. Even love comes at a cost: not necessarily financial. As for the next best thing, here in the UK at least, you need a license.

Yep, it’s that time of year: time to dust down your sonic screwdrivers, break out your long, multi-colour scarves, and clear your Saturday evenings for the next three months. The Good Doctor, in his current incarnation of Peter Capaldi, is back on the box in less than 48 hours.

In honour of this momentous occasion in the North household, here’s a list of some of my favourite things, not always in order:

  1. The Beloved. Who’s not a thing, and gets as grumpy as the 12th Doctor if I publish his photo on this blog.
  2. Doctor Who (1)
  3. Writing: I’m seldom happier than when I’m writing, and it’s going well.
  4. Reading: Just finished a Ruth Rendell short story collection, “Blood Lines”. Currently reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, “Walking Home” by Simon Armitage, and “Stories from the World of Tomorrow”, an anthology of sci fi short stories.
  5. Libraries: Love ’em! I’ll be at my local tomorrow morning, for writers’ group.
Newton, as if imagined by Blake: British Library, 2014

Newton, as if imagined by Blake: British Library, 2014

6. My friends: Other than the Beloved, they are closer, and often dearer, than …
7. My family: great when growing up, now mostly dead, scattered, and/or not communicating much. Having said that …
8. Our “sons”, and our “daughter”: Several people who spent a lot of time at our house as young adults (20s – 30s).
9. Photography: my good photos are few and far between, and mostly down to luck. This is because for the most part, I don’t know what I’m doing. Not entirely convinced I’d enjoy it more if I did know what I was doing
10. Curry, garlic mushrooms, and eating out: Why is all the best food usually stinky?

Tea and cake at Floristry by Lord Hurst: another of my favourite things

Tea and cake at Floristry by Lord Hurst: another of my favourite things

11. Sweet stuff: Prior to being put on medication, I could eat it with no ill effect on my weight. *Sigh*
12. Cats: including whole kittens, not just their whiskers.

Caught in the act: Sept 2015

Caught in the act: Sept 2015

13. Pet rodents: I still miss my Arthur C Rat, but Charles De Rat is very much part of my life. Yes, this causes conflict with 12. above. Also in conflict with 12. is …
14. Birds: Feeding them, watching them, photographing them. It’s relaxing.
15. Art: Mum & Dad did a great job of making me think that visiting to museums and other places filled with art is a good, good thing. Marrying a man who also likes museums simply reinforced this.

Statue of Pan: Chatsworth gardens, Sept 2015

Statue of Pan: Chatsworth gardens, Sept 2015

16. Nature: I need to spend more time around trees. Also, the sea.
17. Music: I have fairly eclectic tastes. Which some would argue means I have no taste.
18. Tea: Mom had this weird idea that kids shouldn’t do a lot of things before they were 13, including drink caffeine. This may be why cola and I have a largely “meh” relationship, whilst the smell off coffee put me off as a child.

But tea, glorious tea! Yes, in the North it generally means the evening meal, but in this instance I mean the glorious hot caffeinated beverage that is made of leaves, and has kept me warm, and awake, since I got hooked on it around 20 years ago.

Speaking of which, fancy a cuppa? I know I do.

Teapot selfie, Beverley: Sept 2015

Teapot selfie, Beverley: Sept 2015

(1) This shocked you, I’m sure.